Sorry, everyone, but Tuesday night the only thing you will be allowed to watch on television is the results of the presidential election as they slowly roll in from across this great nation of ours. Yes, that means field reporting, concession speeches, red and blue states on a big old poster behind the anchor desk, and pundits turning red in their faces when the races don't go their way.
Even if you can't tell the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and a donkey and an elephant fighting over pizza and burritos, you're going to have to watch something. But what? Here are all your major choices, broken down by what to expect and what is the best for you. If you're going to be stuck with journalists, you might as well find some that you like.
Talent: Diane Sawyer, George (copy, paste) Stephanopoulos, Barbara Walters, and Katie Couric
Pros: Sawyer and Stephanopoulos have both actually worked in the White House, so that is some real K Street cred right there. With Walters and Kouric they'll have a nice balance of hard and soft news. Also, they have a lot of female reporters. It's almost as if they had a binder, and it was full of women, and that's who they put on the show.
Cons: Walters and Kouric have devolved into daytime chatterers. They might not be able to deliver the gravitas an occasion like this merits. And seriously, can't we just put Barbara Walters on Social Security already and make her give up a place at the anchor desk? Oh, wait, not if Mitt Romney wins and there is no more Social Security. Never mind.
Watch This If...: You think The View is hard-hitting journalism.
Talent: Scott Pelley, Bob Schieffer, Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson
Pros: Bob Schieffer moderated one of the debates, so he might have some insights. The network will be using virtual reality models to display the election results. I don't know what that means, but "virtual reality" always sounds like the future.
Cons: What is a Scott Pelley? Who are these people?
Watch This If...: You are old and can't find NCIS.
Talent: Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie, Andrea Mitchell, Tamron Hall
Pros: Everyone will be reporting from a place called Democracy Plaza, which sounds like what the inside of a voting booth should be like. Either that or a politics-themed restaurant in Times Square. There will be a lot of really deep voices, so your dog won't be able to hear a thing. It's also the only major network to bring back a returning anchor, so thanks, Brokaw. Oh, and have you seen Brian Williams on 30 Rock? He brings the funny.
Cons: Tamron Hall will be reporting from the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. We are already embarrassed for her. Also, no one likes Savannah Guthrie (especially Ann Curry).
Watch This If...: You want to be like the cast of Girls.
Talent: Bill O'Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove
Pros: If Mitt Romney loses, they'll freak out so bad it will look like a million nervous breakdowns at once.They're the only ones to have a former candidate in the newsroom.
Cons: That candidate is Sarah Palin. Also, Karl Rove, a lugey of human phlegm that came to life, will share his evil ways. That could be insightful but is also like making out with Emperor Palpatine. And, just like MSNBC, this broadcast has a political bias. Unlike MSNBC, they're not bothered by those little things called facts.
Watch This If...: You hate truth, liberty, and the American way.
Talent: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, Erin Burnett, Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleischer, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. Is there anyone they didn't hire?
Pros: Since it's a news network, you can watch it all darn day so you can get all the sweet political news you need to stay alive. Also, it tries to be fair and balanced, which is nice. You never know when Cooper is going to lapse into a fit of the giggles and Begala and Carville are the funniest talking heads in all of punditville.
Cons: Who wants their news balanced? Tell me what to think, news! I'm stupid and need some opinions. Also, remember last election when Wolf Blitzer talked to a hologram. Yeah, that's gone. I already miss it.
Watch This If...: Like Anderson, you'd rather be watching Real Housewives.
Talent: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz, Steve Schmidt
Pros: If there was ever a pro, it's Rev. Al Sharpton. If Obama wins, he'll go crazy. If Romney wins, he'll go double crazy. Stay tuned! Also, Matthews will yell and Maddow will say lots of smart and vaguely mean things that are totally right.
Cons: There doesn't seem to be any virtual reality, holograms, reincarnated robots of William Taft, or anything. Where are the bells and whistles?
Watch This If...: You wear glasses.
Pros: Well, it's unfiltered, unbiased coverage of the democratic process.
Cons: That sounds more dry and boring than a dump truck full of Shredded Wheat.
Watch This If...: You hate fun.
Talent: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert
Pros: Screw taping, these guys are going live! That means the funny is going to be fast, furious, and possibly NSFW (damn those seven-second delays). Also, Colbert's half hour is called Election 2012: A Nation Votes, Ohio Decides; The Re-Presidenting of America: Who Will Replace Obama? ‘012!. Yup, I'd watch that. Oh, and he'll have Andrew Sullivan too.
Cons: Their coverage starts at 11 PM, so you have nothing to watch until then. But, then again, if you have a life outside of watching boring political reporting on TV, then that is actually a pro. They each only get 30 minutes. Boo!
Watch This If...: You think The Onion is real.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Getty Images (2), Comedy Central]
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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Later this summer Chris Evans will become a legitimate leading man with a little movie called Captain America: The First Avenger. However before he goes all star-spangled he’s headlining a wonderful independent film called Puncture in which he plays a troubled but talented Texas personal injury lawyer fighting the good fight in a world gone greedy.
Directed by Mark (who co-stars as Paul Danziger) and Adam Kassen this dramatization of a true story follows Mike Weiss (Evans) a functioning drug addict and crusading do-gooder who stumbles upon a major case-within-a-case while checking in with Vicky (Vinessa Shaw) a client and former nurse who contracted HIV after being accidentally pricked by a dirty needle on the job. She tells him and his partner Paul about her family friend Jeffrey Dancourt who has developed and produced a “Safety Point” syringe that retracts and locks into place after being used so that it can’t be repurposed or reused. The product could save millions of lives across the country but the domineering Healthcare Group Purchasing Organizations consider it too costly for mass implementation. The fight to inform America’s healthcare workers of the existence of Safety Point and to get these secure syringes flowing through U.S. hospitals is what Puncture is all about.
Well that’s almost what it’s all about. Writer Chris Lopata balances the narrative by focusing much of his script on Weiss struggling with his inner demons which are plentiful. A good lawyer who’d go to the grave fighting for the right cause he’s also a hard-partying cocksure womanizer who’ll do any drug on the table (an oxymoronic set of vices considering his commitment to his career and clients.) Whether this behavior is meant to turn the audience on to or off of the character is neither here nor there; in a film as bleak as Puncture often is Evans is the comic relief beating heart and magnetic MVP. His signature witty delivery and nonchalant body language contrast the overabundance of rigid legal lingo to make the movie more enjoyable for everyone (as will his abs for the female viewers and the filmmakers show plenty of them.)
Of course in most cases it takes more than just a good-looking star to carry a movie and Puncture doesn’t solely rely on one man’s performance. Kudos to Mark Kassen who shines in front of and behind the camera as Mike’s straight-laced best friend and business partner Paul and his brother Adam for making a stinging statement about a corrupt institution in an entertaining fashion. The brothers don’t show off too much in their feature debut; instead they let their actors define the film while offering occasional technical assistance to heighten or visualize the drama. Sometimes they’re a bit conspicuous like when they splice scenes together using dialogue as a through line. Others instances like over exposing lights while playing with the cameras focus to put us in Mike’s trippy state of consciousness are more subtle.
Though the directors have made a touching and relatable film it’s as much a victim of formula as you’d expect a legal drama to be. From pacing to plot points you’ll feel as though you’re watching a cross between A Few Good Men The Insider and Philadelphia as it makes its way toward an inevitable conclusion. Further it delves into a few dead-end subplots (involving some shady figures who you’re led to believe will help turn the picture in an unexpected direction) that are frustratingly out of place much like the topic of the picture at this time. Still these cons aren’t enough to bury Puncture’s quality as a whole. It’s easily Evans’ best performance to date and a hearty freshman effort from the Kassen Bros.
Eighteen-year-old Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) has been for reasons too convoluted to go into left for dead. But his body’s still alive and his spirit – stuck in limbo – continues to interact with those around him desperately trying to communicate his existential plight before his body – hidden in a storm drain - expires. Being caught between life and death is probably a scary place but it’s likely more compelling than depicted here. The cause of Nick’s current dilemma is Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva) a juvenile delinquent and classmate of Nick’s whose troubled upbringing turned her into such a teen terror. Nick must try and compel Annie to locate his body but it takes an inordinate amount of time to do it during which the story – and the film as a whole - falls apart. After awhile it’s difficult to work up much sympathy to say nothing of any interest for what happens to these characters. Chatwin (Tom Cruise’s son in War of the Worlds) scores his first big-screen lead here and does about as well as can be expected under the circumstances which are fairly dire. With better material this might have been a decent showcase for his leading-man qualities. Better luck next time. Not nearly as fortunate is Levieva playing the prettiest leader of a high-school crime ring in recent memory. One minute she’s playing it tough and thrashing Nick within an inch of his life. The next she’s tearfully admonishing her little brother (Alex Ferris) not to make the same mistakes she made. It’s a terrible role and worse an inconsistent one. The biggest name in the cast Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden plays Nick’s domineering mother. Like many of the roles in the film it’s strictly one-note. Still it’s nice having a pro like Harden on hand – even if the film goes out of its way to squander her talents. Only Callum Keith Rennie as the obligatory detective on the case manages to bring a little credibility to the proceedings. So naturally the film ignores him for long stretches. David S. Goyer is better known – and rightly so – for the films he’s written (Dark City Batman Begins and the Blade films) than the ones he’s directed (Blade: Trinity anyone?). But the true blame here falls on screenwriters Mick Davis and Christine Roum whose attempt to combine a supernatural storyline doused with teen angst fails miserably. At times The Invisible feels like leftovers from The Sixth Sense Ghost Jacob's Ladder The Butterfly Effect (yikes!) any number of Twilight Zone episodes and even Groundhog Day. The Invisible is based on a Swedish novel and a previous film but like the many Asian chillers that undergo an “Americanized” remake something has been lost in the translation – starting with credibility even on its own terms. So many movies undergo reshoots these days but rarely has an entire movie felt like a reshoot. The Invisible has that dubious distinction.
On the one hand it’s a comedy. We meet Sarah Huttinger (Jennifer Aniston) a thirtysomething knee deep in a pre-midlife crisis with a way too patient fiancé (Mark Ruffalo) and a nowhere job. Her anxiety is only exacerbated when she visits her picture perfect family in Pasadena CA a place she’s never felt like she belonged especially after her mother died. But then it gets weirder when Sarah finds out her family was the inspiration for The Graduate. It seems Sarah’s grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) was the Mrs. Robinson and that her mother ran off with the same guy briefly right before she got married to Sarah’s dad. Sarah becomes obsessed with finding this “other” guy Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) believing he might be the key. He’s a key all right--to a night of drunken lust. But none of this is going to solve Sarah’s problems now is it? She’s got to find her own answers in her heart. Excuse me while I go throw up. Maybe Jennifer Aniston should just write this year off. Not only did she lose a husband to another woman she also hasn’t made very smart choices in her career. Derailed completely missed the track and now this comedy is no better suited to her talents. Aniston is much better playing sweet and quirky rather than messy and neurotic and honestly shines brighter when co-starring with strong comedic talents such as Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly) or Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty). (That’s why we’re holding our breath for her next film The Break Up with [real-life boyfriend?] Vince Vaughn.) Shirley MacLaine making a habit out of being the best thing in an otherwise dull movie (In Her Shoes anyone?) is a hoot as grandma. Costner doesn’t look anything like Dustin Hoffman thank goodness but has zero chemistry with Aniston. And who knows what the hell Ruffalo is doing wasting his talents doing this romantic comedy crap. Just say no Mark. As a director Rob Reiner hasn’t had much luck lately either. This is the first movie he’s directed since 2003’s Alex & Emma--and we all remember what a success that was. To be fair Reiner apparently took over the reins from screenwriter Ted Griffin (Matchstick Men) who was making his feature film debut ten days into production and changed things quite a bit. That’s not surprising because Rumor quite simply lacks direction. It wants desperately to be a comedy with a hint of relationship drama but somehow misses the mark on both. Now the idea of a Graduate update is somewhat intriguing. Reminds me of Robert Altman’s The Player in which The Graduate’s original screenwriter Buck Henry pitches a sequel of sorts to a studio development exec. It’s meant to be a joke of course but somewhere in the spoof there might’ve been a sliver of mad brilliance. Too bad Rumor ruins it.